Part 2 – Back Benching in Cambridge



How else could you follow up the Cambridge Winter Farmers Market – managed by daughter A  – but with a Saturday lunch with Harvard Law School professor Jonathan Zittrain. This was the first official function I attended.   My post would not do JZ’s talk justice, but his themes ranged from the potential lockdown of information by the Googles of the world to the word clouds that can now be created from the digitized collections of all US legal cases at the HLS library. I left feeling as though I would most certainly appreciate law school more now than I did when I was actually attending. And how many times has that statement been made following a reunion.

After the law school luncheon, class symposium (international perspectives on American politics – imagine that), we had a brief interlude of drinking champagne imported by a friend and classmate from small vineyards in France. Mr. Transatlantic Bubbles! I offered to be his marketing person. He even brought a box of his own Reidel stemware.

After catching up with old friends and surviving the stares of the 1Ls who couldn’t quite comprehend why the old folks had their own wineglasses and were drinking champagne in the student center, it was time to rendezvous with J, daughter A and boyfriend N. Off to the most trendy current brewery in Somerville. By the time  we left at 5, there was a three deep line stretching 30 feet out the door.


J and I changed for the class dinners at the Charles Hotel. A little bizarre to float back and forth between life as a parent to my now mid 20s daughter and then to travel down memory lane to meet up again with people whom I’d first known thirty years ago. But after the dinner and attendant speeches ended, we found ourselves back at that aging Cambridge establishment, the Hong  Kong. Up a grungy flight of stairs to a dank few second floor dimly lit rooms – it is the epitome of college dive. It’s famous for scorpion bowl cocktails. Imagine a 12 inch diameter bowl, filled with a lethal concoction of different liquors, muddled together with grain alcohol, and you’ll get the idea. Everyone partaking is provided with their own straw for imbibing.  Some  obtain extra straws, link them  them together, and suddenly  achieve the telekinetic ability to swill cocktails from a full couple of feet away.

It was time to go. Bowls only last so long. And we knew a brunch awaited the next day with A and N at Tap and Trotter m Somerville.

We made it to our rendezvous with A and N surprisingly early Sunday morning. But when we arrived at our brunch destination we learned that our counted upon Bloody Mary’s couldn’t be sold til 11. We managed to eke out our order until drinks arrived almost simultaneous with our entrees. From brunch, a visit to the remarkable Harvard art museum. Beautiful collection of 19th art  to present. Below – a painting that brought back memories of New Orleans. An absinthe drinker.


After, a visit to daughter A’s house and off to the airport, via a trip to see Old Ironsides, now mostly under restoration.

View next to Old Ironsides

We have a tradition of ordering scrod at Legal Seafood at the airport. The plane flight back was as smooth as ever. And even as we pulled into the semi humidity of Florida I still felt that little crackle and pop of a Boston spring.


Cambridge, Mass. – 30 Years Later


We have just completed the daughter circuit. It’s a little different than the Annapurna circuit (not that I’ve ever done that) but certainly has its own special highs. Still escaping the trigger points that exist everywhere at our house and remind us of Malcolm, our recently deceased Westie, husband J and I took off for the second weekend in a row early Friday morning to venture off to Cambridge, MA.  We were in New Orleans the prior week with daughter S, so we’ve managed to cover the Gulf and the North Atlantic within a week of each other.

I say Cambridge intentionally, as we barely set foot in Boston. The ostensible reason for the trip was my 30th year law school reunion. This reunion had special significance for me – five years ago we were preparing to climb Kilimanjaro in July 2011. That was the trip that – no exaggeration – changed our lives. As I reflect back – life since then? There’s been a lot more than work. Besides Kili, there’s Mt Elbrus, the Grand Canyon, Machu Picchu, Cotopaxi, Illiniza Norte, Mt Hood, Orizaba… The list continues.

Leaving such reflections in the wafting jet trails of our 8 am flight, now over an hour delayed, we arrived in Boston about noon and made our way to a trendy lunch spot near Central Square, close to one of daughter A’s two not for profit jobs. Following the obligatory sandwich and salad, we left luggage with A and did our first urban hike from Central Square to the law school so I could register. To say the place has changed is an understatement. Wyeth Hall, the ancient dorm where I spent my first year in 83/84 is no longer, replaced by a luxurious student center and administrative building. The parking garage I remembered is gone, with a below ground parking deck now serving that function. And the old student center, the Hark, has a fancy name, and the smell of a keg of beer gone bad that pervaded the pub vanished.


We’d decided that Friday was family night and Saturday would be devoted to more official matters. So after registering we walked back to Central Square, retrieved our luggage and went to pick up A via Uber at her second NFP job – managing the Cambridge Winter Farmers Market. Yes, my daughter is a market manager!

Since when one is with millennials one does as millennials – hence, the Uber took us to our AirBnb. A small studio, it was fine, but the last guests must have stolen the duvet because two sheets were definitely not enough covers for a Floridian couple. There was a brief moment of panic when I realized I didn’t know the unit number for the studio, but at least no one noticed us trying the key in various and sundry apartments.

From there it was time to meet boyfriend N’s parents, K and S (see The Real Mysteries of Puzzle Mountain, Maine), A and N for a free concert sponsored by the Harvard music department. Billed as Creative music, it was several steps beyond jazz improvisation. We saw improvisational pianist Craig Taborn perform “Avenging Angel: Improvisations for Solo Piano”…and I have never seen anyone’s hands move so fast and precisely over a piano keyboard – almost as if he was chiseling glass. But there was one moment when daughter – at a particularly discordant part – silently pointed out to me that the map of the building in the program included an area designated as “area of refuge.” I still have a sore spot from biting my lip so as not to laugh out loud in the awfully serious concert hall in which we found ourselves.

Following our foray into the world of musical virtuosity, dinner was at Shepard – where I found rabbit on the menu for the third time in a week. So much for my having recently predicted the demise of Thumper on menus.

After a chilly night at our AirBnB, Saturday morning was dedicated to the Cambridge Winter Farmers Market. It was “Get Growing” day and daughter A was in her prime keeping vendors that ranged from a duck egg purveyor to a seller of homemade marshmallows to a manufacturer of rain barrels all in order. And who knew about kombucha. A’s housemates had set up their own booth to give away samples of the fermented tea with a reputation for healing properties. Floating in it is a SCOBY – a “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.” I kid you not. Supposedly its low alcohol content is what set off Lindsay Lohan’s anti alcohol bracelet.

Still to come….drinking fine champagne in the student center in the middle of the afternoon, some great speakers, an art museum, and that classic of Cambridge nightlife – bowling the Hong Kong.  You can only imagine. Next post.

All Roads Lead to Market Basket – Adventures in Somerville, Mass.

St. Patrick's, NYC
St. Patrick’s, NYC

When an opportunity presents, take it – and that is how I found myself on a five day excursion to New York City and Somerville, Mass. this past week. Although my fare consisted of having to attend  a two day legal seminar, I got to catch up with old friends and visit daughter A and the boyfriend N and enjoy perfect spring weather in Boston.

Before I return to the theme of “all roads lead to” (see All Roads Lead to Fludir – adventures in Iceland), I must spend a few minutes mentioning the mountains of Manhattan. They aren’t products of geology – the City is remarkably flat – but they certainly are metaphorical. Everywhere you turn people are striving toward their own personal summits, whether professional or artistic or simply individualistic. And against a backdrop of skyscrapers looming over city canyons like sharp mountain peaks over a valley. It can all be a bit exhausting.

I last lived in NYC from 1986 to 1989 and each time I visit I still experience the disconnect between the city then and the city now.  This time it was men wearing suits with open collared shirts. People scurrying down the sidewalk, cigarettes in hand – probably a side effect of the fact smoking is permitted practically nowhere. The Freedom Tower, gleaming over the city in the spot I still expect to see the Twin Towers. And some remarkably ugly multi story apartment buildings poking up out of midtown – that my college roommate, a long term resident of the area near the United Nations, described as a giant middle finger to the City. And I am convinced there were not as many Duane Reades back then –  there now seems to be one on every corner – and they sell food and beer.

View from the Acela Express - on the way to Boston
View from the Acela Express – on the way to Boston

On Friday I caught the Acela Express, having arrived at Penn Station way earlier than necessary, and spent a very comfortable 3 hours traveling to Boston’s South Station. It was a great way to travel – free wifi and had the woman next to me not been so determined to close the curtain, a beautiful view for much of the way.

Boston was spectacular. I managed to run 4 miles Saturday morning, The trees were in full blossom, white and pink bridal bouquets cascading to the ground, silhouetted by the very pale green of new leaves of other trees playing attendants to their more glamorous sisters. I got to stay on the very comfortable futon of the 20 somethings’ level of a Somerville triple decker. One of our projects was buying planters and flowers and herbs to turn their back porch into something worthy of daughter A’s Florida heritage. And a shout out to the housemates for creating such a nice living space.

Somerville - spring blossoms on steroids
Somerville – spring blossoms on steroids

Boston – or Somerville – highlights included multiple trips to the Market Basket – the iconic Somerville family owned and inexpensive grocery store with a very convenient parking lot. Open Studios Somerville was also fun – over 400 artists open their homes and studios to the general public – especially the house of the older couple filled with dioramas (in case you didn’t know what to do with any small scale  model of anything that you ever saw), the quilling artist (a way to use every scrap of colored paper you wish you’d never thrown away and clearly to become daughter A’s new hobby), and interesting paintings of the backs of industrial buildings in Somerville.  The day was topped off by a vegetarian Indian meal at Dosa ‘n Curry (dosa the size of the table) and listening to Mike Stern, former guitarist for the unlikely combination of Miles Davis and Blood, Sweat and Tears, at the Regatta Bar.

Plus, I got upgraded on the flight back to Florida. Some summits are hard – but some are pretty easy. Have a good week.